Posted on behalf of a LEO who chooses to remain anonymous…
“Discrimination toward or against a person of a certain group is the treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit. Discrimination is always a behavior that promotes a certain group at the expense of another”
Change is hard. It’s as hard to accept as it is to achieve. Well folks, times have changed and it is time to embrace it and move forward.
The incident in Cambridge involving Professor Gates is a perfect example of a man’s cultural heritage ruling his response to what should have been a harmless incident that began with nothing but the best of intentions. It’s a shame that adversarial racial politics are still sexier than common sense and reality. It’s even sadder that discrimination is considered reasonable, but only if it comes from a historically oppressed source.
The stereotype of a predominately white police force made up of blue collar, barely educated war veterans from the Viet Nam era is a thing of the past. For one thing, those guys are all old and retired (no offense to old retired cops here, of course.) The most senior sergeant at my police department was hired almost 20 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The average officer on the street was hired over 30 years after that historic moment.
I work for a state police department that patrols a major university and the surrounding city streets. It’s a unique environment and we are well trained to deal with it. Far from an occupying army, we are members of the community we serve.
Our officers are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Philipino, gay, Jewish, you name it he or she is our brother or sister in crime fighting. Most of our officers are college graduates, some with post-graduate degrees, many are alumni. Only one of every one hundred applicants makes it all the way through the screening and training process to become a full fledged police office working the streets.
We are governed by a state standard that includes ongoing training in avoiding historically common forms of bias in the way we perform our job within our human limitations, for we are of course human, just like you. We are required by both law and policy to be fair and reasonable in our approach to the situations we encounter. We are expected to have a thicker skin than most and turn the other cheek to those who are abusive to us, within reason and until we feel physically threatened. We are still human. Just like you. Words can still hurt, but we are trained to control our reactions.
In Cambridge, Professor Gates seems to have assumed that Sergeant Crowley had an agenda. He was right. Sergeant Crowley was planning to catch a burglar breaking into a house. That was his agenda. And upon his arrival he encountered a man fitting the suspect description, who yelled at him and refused to cooperate with his requests for identification. Instead, the professor started hurling insults. Racist insults. You see the professor’s insults were based on his perception of Sergeant Crowley. A perception that was based on Sergeant Crowley’s profession and his skin color.
The politically correct will say that isn’t fair. They will say that Professor Gates reaction was a result of historical oppression and discrimination. His behavior will be excused because of his race and history. Even by the President of the United States. Forget that he is a highly regarded and honored scholar with the benefit of the best education available in this country. Forget that a man of his stature should be expected to behave like a mature adult who shows the patience and respect towards others that he clearly expects from others. Forget that an educated man and renowned teacher and author should be able to grasp that police officers responding to a burglary in progress are going to look for the suspect as described by the caller and for their own safety, will be reasonably suspicious of the person they encounter who fits that description. The situation will escalate if that person seems highly reactive and volatile upon contact.
Sergeant Crowley on the other hand will be held by many to a super human standard. Forget that he was called to the residence by a witness. Forget that he encountered the actual person described in the call. Forget that the person refused to cooperate and instead shouted at him and began hurling those racially based insults. Forget that Sergeant Crowley team teaches a class for recruits on how to avoid racial profiling, along with an African American colleague. Or that he was hand picked for that role by Cambridge’s black Police Commissioner. Or that he volunteers as a youth coach and is a decorated officer. Forget that many officers would have proned him out at gunpoint before asking for identification. He will be vilified in many forums as a racist. Sergeant Crowley will be treated as a lower class citizen that is assumed to have erred due to his skin color and profession.
Is it just me or is the irony getting kind of thick in here?